Future Tenses and New Year's Resolutions

This is just an idea I had to use New Year’s resolutions to teach the future tense. That in and of itself is probably nothing new. However one major issue that many students have with talking about the future in English is distinguishing between when we use “going to do”, when we use “will do” and when we use present continuous, “I am doing”. So here’s a way to help them understand the difference. Of course, we should be careful not to present these distinctions as hard and fast rules. In actual practice, the three modes are interchangeable or come down to subjective differences. Often comprehension is the most important point. They need to understand that when someone says, “Italy is going to win the World Cup,” it means the speaker has some reason to believe this is so. When someone says, “Italy will win,” it more likely means the speaker wants Italy to win.

Warm Up: Presentation

Explain briefly, if necessary, the idea of New Year’s resolutions–plans that we make to improve ourselves in the upcoming year. Then write three New Year’s resolutions on the board. These may or may not be your real resolutions. Do make sure that at least one of them uses “will” and at least one uses “am going to”.

For example:

  1. I will quit smoking.
  2. I am going to be a better teacher.
  3. I will be a kinder person.

Point out that the second resolution has a different grammar form. Ask why that might be. If you don’t elicit it, then explain that you used “am going to be” because you have already taken steps toward this goal and you feel that it is achievable. You got some teaching books for Christmas, and you have been evaluating your old lessons. So there is some reason to believe that you are going to be a better teacher next year.

Explain that quitting smoking is very difficult. So while you want to achieve that goal, you don’t necessarily believe it will happen. And you haven’t really prepared for it at all. So there’s no reason now to believe that you will quit smoking, but you really want to, and you are going to try.

This lesson has now moved to my Teacher’s Pay Teacher store. You can preview, purchase, and download New Year’s Resolutions and the Future Tense Lesson Plan there. It includes controlled practice, a verb tense worksheet, and a fun worksheet for students to write their own resolutions on with complete Teacher’s Notes and Extension Ideas. So check it out!

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